Skip to content
Mar 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 17, 2013 – Mark 10:32-52

Easter Preparations

Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” Mark 10:42

INTRO: Have you ever heard someone say their pastor teaches the Bible verse-by-verse?

It sounds like they’re getting at every morsel of truth
– but verse-by-verse is not necessarily the best way to go thru the Scriptures
• the Bible wasn’t written verse-by-verse — chapters and verses were added much later to make for easy reference
• also, verse-by-verse suggests each verse contains its own message–a tiny capsule of truth
○ but most verses in the Bible are only a fragment of a larger thought — sometimes a phrase within a sentence
– I’ve noticed that those who teach verse-by-verse tend to read a verse or two and then preach a mini-sermon
• we are not really learning from them what the Bible teaches

When we study the Scriptures, we look at an entire thought
– this means, we have to figure out where each thought begins and ends
• sometimes the biblical writers help us – they leave markers
• we have a good example in this passage, which begins and ends with the words “on the road” (vv. 32 & 52)
○ like bookends, this phrase creates an envelope around the text (the literary term is inclusio)

When the markers are this obvious, they reflect something from the message that lies between them
– for example, people didn’t connect with Jesus only in public meetings
• they received training on the road
○ in a synagogue, on a hillside, or by the sea, Jesus delivered his message regarding the kingdom of God
○ on the road, he addressed issues and gave warnings that were practical and of the moment
– this particular road was taking the Lord and his followers to Easter

Jesus was in a mood

That Mark says he “was walking on ahead” most likely means this was unusual
– it made his followers feel uneasy – “amazed” (baffled), fearful
• he normally had lots of interaction with the crowd
○ but this time he pulled away and ahead of them, going forward in solitude
• Jesus was locked in his own thoughts – which he soon shared with the twelve
– “Behold,” “Look” – this is an invitation to read this part of the text differently
• to get more deeply involved in the action
• what Jesus revealed to his disciples was not a doctrine, but an event
○ that’s why there are so many verbs in verses 33-34
• the verbs are like stairs descending into a dark abyss, until the last one, “rise again”

Jesus was going to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes
– these titles referred to men who held positions of power
• the priests – had control of the temple and therefore the heart of Israel’s religious life
• the scribes – were guardians of scripture; experts in God’s Word
– Jesus was going to be “handed over” to them, which means he would be under their authority
• they used this unfair advantage to have him tortured and killed
religion has a long history of abusing the innocent
○ I feel very strongly that this spiritual abuse has to be addressed

There are a few things we should know about the scribes

  1. 1. They did not have a role among spiritual leaders in the early period of Israel’s history
    – they just sort of appeared during the history of the kings
    • it is obvious why they were needed – to preserve scripture
    • they were among the few people in society who could read and write
  2. They came into prominence with Ezra – a scribe and priest
    – he returned from exile with the authority of the Persian king
    • he was willing to use that authority to force compliance to his interpretation of the law
    – there is biblical evidence that he abused that authority
  3. The Pharisees’ roots go back to Ezra
    – their obsession over what was lawful put them in opposition to Jesus
    – the scribes were very critical of Jesus’ ministry and frequently joined the Pharisees in openly attacking him
  4. The roots of Christian fundamentalism go back to scribes and Pharisees
    – the Pharisees were the fundamentalists of the day (loyal to scripture, legalistic, believed in the resurrection, spirits, and angels)

There is something that gets confused in fundamentalist churches
– namely, the authority of the Scriptures and the authority of the person who interprets and preaches the Scriptures
• if a person claims to speak with the authority of scripture, then he speaks with the authority of God
• do you see how the logic works? What mortal can contradict God?
– fundamentalist preachers have exercised way too much control
• over how the Bible is to be read and interpreted
• over how people are to relate to God and each other
• over how Christians are to conduct their lives
– once your eyes have been opened to this, you can see how many church programs are designed to control people

A couple of years ago while reading through Ezra, I jotted down the following observations:

With Ezra, the scribe’s role went from being a record-keeper to a manager, supervisor, rule-maker, and leader. Until now, the scribes worked in the background. The foreground roles belonged to people of vision, action, and inspiration.
It is easy to understand the growing influence of scribes after the exile. First, Israel needed a written record of their history to remember who they were and also to avoid making the same mistakes that sent them into exile. From now on, they wanted to do everything “by the book.”
But God’s work cannot move forward under the control of bean counters. The precise tabulation of numbers requires rules that standardize operations, quantify everything, and require a continual repetition of the same procedures. The goal is to preserve the knowledge of God as revealed to the ancients, not to seek new understandings of God in light of today’s situation. The bean counter cannot fathom or accommodate a statement like, “The Sabbath was made for man, man was not made for the Sabbath.” “Wait,” they cry, “I do not have that in my manual,” as they frantically flip through pages.
But this guardianship of tradition is not all bad, so long as it is kept in its place. After all, Ezra had preserved Israel’s theme song from the time of David, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His mercy endures forever.”

Recently, I have received reports about severe spiritual abuse

I did not go looking for this stuff – others have brought it to my attention
– but it’s so heartbreaking, I can’t ignore it
– so, briefly, I will give you a short list of warnings

Beware of:

  1. Me – I am human and frequently wrong
    – don’t take me too seriously
  2. Preachers who preach with the voice of absolute authority
    – as if their interpretation of the Bible is the one and only true view
    • if anyone who disagrees with them, they are “of the devil”
    – who say, “Don’t get angry with me, I’m only quoting the Bible”
    • who tell you what you can and cannot read
    • as if you had no filters, intelligence, or discernment
  3. Pastors who eclipse Jesus
    – who are so charming, charismatic, or compelling that you’re drawn to them
    – who around their church and after their meetings are talked about more than Jesus
  4. Leaders who are obsessed with numbers
    – whose goal is an ever larger audience
    – who ask for sacrificial contributions
    • their priority is not your spiritual welfare, regardless of what they say
  5. Leaders who isolate you from family and friends
  6. Leaders who try to define your worldview – your reality
  7. Pastors who burden you with guilt and manipulate you with piety
  8. Pastors who imply or explicitly state that to leave their church or turn from them is to turn from God
  9. Pastors who pronounce judgments without knowing all the facts
  10. Amateur apologists
  11. Pastors who demean women, ethnic groups, you, or anyone else
    – leaders who use the threat of humiliation or humiliation to keep people in line
  12. Leaders in whom you can discern “distorted thinking”
    – last year my daughter, Karen, was preparing a speech for one of her psych classes
    • she sent me a list of cognitive distortions
    ○ i.e., types of twisted thinking that give people a false view of the themselves, the world, and others
    • recently I read an article by Major Scott Nicloy that connected certain cognitive distortion to instances of spiritual abuse
    ○ abusers are neither spiritually or emotionally healthy people
    ○ people who live with their abuse become unhealthy as well

James and John demonstrate an incredible lack of sensitivity

Jesus has just predicted his humiliation, condemnation, and death
– then without losing a beat, they are asking for special favors in his kingdom
• the same thing had happened earlier (Mk. 9:30-34)

Jesus told them, “You do not know what you are asking”
– in other words, there was more to their request than they realized
• there are always hidden things – hidden in the future or deep inside ourselves
– it was also James and John that Jesus told, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of . . .” (Lk. 9:55)
• however they justified their request in their own minds, their thinking was wrong

What did they not know about their request?
– first, that it would entail suffering — drinking the cup that Jesus had to drink
– secondly, they did not know–or did not admit–their motives
• these are brought to light in Jesus explanation of leadership (vv. 42-45)
• they wanted to be “rulers,” “great” (or important), “first” — positions of power, authority, status
– Jesus was not going to let them adopt the model of worldly leaders
• he was not going to allow them to hold positions in which they could abuse others
○ as the chief priests and scribes were using theirs to abuse him
• rather, they were to serve and give their lives for others

You will always find Jesus among those who are abused, but never with the abusers

CONC: Finally we come to Bartimaeus, one of my favorite characters in the gospels

Notice, Jesus asked him the same question he asked James and John
“What do you want Me to do for you?” – think about that
– use this question as a spiritual exercise
• hear Jesus ask you, and for every answer you come up with, ask yourself, “Why do I want him to do that for me?”
• eventually you will get down to what your soul really craves

What if Bartimaeus had answered:
“I’ve got this pain in my lower back from sitting on ground for so many years. Could you heal it?”
“My brother is rich, but he won’t help me out. Would You talk to him, please?”
“I try my best to make friends, but no one wants me for a friend. Tell me how to make friends.”
• we ask for wrong things from Jesus, because we don’t really know what troubles us
• we give Jesus our symptoms, but not our problems
“What do you want me to do for you?”
– let’s allow this question to lead us down to the bedrock of our souls
• hopefully we will discover that the cry from deep within is,
“Lord, I want to be free so I can follow You”

Leave a comment